Email Marketing: Third-Party Offers with Deal-Killer Fine Print

I’ve complained about similar offers before, but since this arrived in my inbox this morning, I figured it’s time to revisit the issue.

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Today’s lesson is about third-party offers, where an outside company pays to get in front of your customer base. They are relatively rare in financial services these days because banks and card issuers are wary of being tarred and feathered in social media (or the CFPB) if something goes wrong or the particular marketing permissions were later shown to be lacking.

Uber offer from Capital One via email 3 Oct 2016
Uber offer from Capital One via email 3 Oct 2016

 

The offer in question is from Uber. It’s good for $5 off your first 5 rides and requires a Capital One card for payment. That’s a win-win. Uber gets a new customer and Capital One gets its card loaded into the Uber app for years to come.

The problem: It’s only for new Uber customers. I presume Capital One removes cardholders from the mailing who have charged an Uber to its card. But that doesn’t catch people who use another card in their Uber account.

So let’s break down what happens next. Capital One customers get this slick email (see above). They get excited to switch Uber payments over to their Capital One card to grab some $5-off rides. But then, after reading the fine print, or more likely clicking through the message and trying to sign up, cardholders find out they get zip from this deal. Now, they are not happy with Capital One or Uber. What a waste of time and brand loyalty.

Instead, why not give some smaller benefit to existing Uber customers willing to switch their payment card over to Capital One? Even just one $5 off coupon would suffice for most.

Bottom line: Capital One needs to earmark a portion of its commissions from Uber towards existing customers. If there isn’t enough revenue to do that, then it should stop making the offer.

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Related: At last mfindevr-sv16onth’s Finovate Fall, MX demo’d, and won Best of Show, for an automated solution called Power Switch to automatically enroll your customers’ cards into e-commerce sites such as Uber, Amazon, iTunes, and so on. Get a behind-the-scenes look at how MX produces its award-winning (six consecutive Best of Shows) at FinDEVr in Santa Clara 18/19 Oct 2016 (register here).

Mobile Monday: Communicating Critical App Updates via Email

 

usbank_mobile_upgrade_email_border

       Email from US Bank to mobile banking customers (12 Nov 2015)

Last week I wrote about how much I liked US Bank’s new native app. So I understand why the bank is anxious to get users ported over to the new version. Customers are going to like it. Guaranteed.

Yet I was a little surprised, just a week into the new version, to receive an email warning that the previous app was about to stop working (see message above). This urgency makes customers question whether something is seriously wrong with the previous version. The message is also annoying in that it doesn’t really give the customer any clue as to whether their version is the current one, or not. It provides only the version number (2.1.76) which is the cut-off between good and bad apps.

This message offers so many opportunities to improve that I was compelled to compile a top-10 list of gripes (plus 2 bonus nitpicks). They are listed, more or less, in priority order:

  1. I had already updated to the new version, so this message was completely unnecessary. And if the bank doesn’t know which version I’m using, it should say so.
  2. There is no explanation of why it was suddenly so urgent to upgrade. Skeptical users were left to their imaginations, not something you want in these days of widely publicized security breaches.
  3. usbank_appversionnumberInstead of talking about version numbers, why not just describe the new app? It looks completely different! A quick description and screenshot would have been understood by 90% of the readers, and would have allowed users to move on with their day, rather than having to engage in a tedious “find the version-number hunt.”
  4. If you must use a version number, then at least explain how to find it. The email failed to address that key point in the body, fine print, or within any links provided within the message. It’s not that simple to find the version number. You must log in, find the hidden primary navigation, choose “About the App” and notice the version number in the lower right corner (see inset). 
  5. If you are going to make such a big change, use a whole number for the new version of your app. In this case, it would be easier to say, “Use v3.0 or later.” 
  6. The links provided to update the app did not go to the iTunes app-update page, but instead went to a marketing page at USBank.com. And the marketing pages, while well done, also did NOT link to the app store’s update pages. In fact, to confuse things still further, the marketing page said the new version “was coming soon.”
  7. The only way to get help was to make a phone call to the general 800 number; no direct line to tech support was given. And not even an FAQ page, email address, chat, or any other type of digital link was provided for help in responding to this matter.
  8. The email message was not optimized for mobile. It was hard to read on my iPhone 6.
  9. It does not specifically address what happens if you don’t update within the next few days; “discontinuing support” has a number of meanings from simply not getting tech support to completely not working.
  10. The bank’s message concluded with thanks for being a mobile banking customer, but they could have also thanked me for taking time out of my day to deal with this “Maintain access … update now” emergency subject line in my inbox.
  11. <Nitpick #1> The first sentence of the second paragraph uses “new” three times.
  12. <Nitpick #2> The closing sentence repeats the “enhanced convenience” copy point. This is a generic benefit at best and shouldn’t be invoked twice in a 150-word message. The resulting inconvenience to update makes their value judgment of questionable importance.

Bottom line: Customer communications are not easy, especially with newer technology. So make sure to test them with some less-savvy users before hitting publish.

Marketing Minute: Optimizing Emails for the Small Screen

Recent email marketing research found that two-thirds of Americans regularly check email via smartphone and a significant number of total opens (as high as 70%) are now opened on a mobile device. Since most emails that look good on mobile look fine on a desktop (but NOT vice versa), you can pretty much disregard the desktop when creating a design template for your email alerts and marketing messages.

Here’s a few examples from my inbox during the past few weeks. Both Capital One and BBVA’s Simple use appropriate font size and a good mobile layout. Simple does an especially good job at grabbing attention with a small animation at the top of the message. In comparison, the BankDirect pitch is not well optimized for mobile, though it’s readable if you work at it. But it does nothing to grab your attention visually.

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Bank email samples (viewed on iPhone 6)

First: Business Savings account promo from Capital One
Easy to read opening line and big Open Now buttons on first screen and below the fold

Second: BankDirect to American AAdvantage mileage club members
Harder to read the small type, and call-to-action is below the fold

Third: Simple announces its 100%-no-fee policy change
Grabs attention with small animated graphic at top with big “Hi FirstName” visible on first screen. The remainder of message is in a font easily read on a mobile phone:

capitalone_email bankdirect_americanair_email simple_email2

Transaction Alerts Need to Get Smarter

fraud word cloud.jpgMy inbox is far from normal. With 25 active financial accounts, all set to maximum notifications, I am drowning in email alerts, push notifications and other helpful communications. But who isn’t overloaded with missives from social media, news feeds, spambots and whatever else is competing for your attention.

Banks need to help users cut down on the noise, by offering smart alerts that don’t bog you down in trivial details. Not to pick on anyone in particular, because all my providers do pretty much the same thing (with the notable exception of BillGuard), but this alert from Bank of America today (see below) is a good example of info overload.
Yes, I’m sure I asked the bank to notify me of any card-not-present transactions. Given the amount of times my card number has been breached in the past five years, it’s a good early warning. But really, do you think it’s necessary to tell me for the 89th consecutive month that you paid my $8.75 Netflix monthly fee? Really, I just want to be informed if it were to suddenly go up or be repeated.
BofA would probably want my permission to stop sending me this monthly alert. So how about a little button that says, “Don’t tell me about this charge if it’s the same next month” or something along those lines. And this should also be an option in the bank’s alert dashboard: “Please don’t alert me to repetitive monthly fees, unless they change.”

Thanks for listening.

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Bank of America email alert (18 Feb 2015)
bofa_alert.jpg
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Source: Fraud artwork above from NCUA’s MyCreditUnion

Capital One’s Well-Designed "Suspicious Activity" Email Alert

image I’ve used Capital One’s credit card fairly actively for the past 4 or 5 years. And they’ve rarely, if ever, declined a charge (and there has never been any fraud on the card). The last fraud message I can find in my email was in December 2011 (see last screenshot). But apparently our travel combined with extra holiday spending finally caused the banks’ fraud system to flag our account, rejecting a $100+ Target purchase a few days after Christmas.

I have Capital One’s mobile wallet installed which pushes near-real-time notifications to the lock screen (iOS). I did receive a notice I’d been declined, but no word on why or what to do about it. But luckily the issuer’s email system handled that task admirably. Within a few hours I received an excellent email detailing the five most recent charges, and providing a simple "all clear" button that was clickable within the email, a major improvement over issuers who merely tell you there is suspicious activity and make you call or login to find out the details.

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Analysis
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This is the best suspicious activity notice I’ve ever received. Typically, I receive message similar to Capital One’s "old" version imploring me to call the bank (see last screenshot). However, there is still room for improvement, especially in the reporting process.

As much as the fraud folks desire a concrete yes/no answer, the real world is often full of gray areas. In this case, I was sure that I’d make all these transactions, but often that’s not the case. Sometimes you don’t recognize a merchant or your spouse may have made the charge or you simply don’t recognize something you may have authorized a while ago. There needs to be a third option here, "I’m not sure." Furthermore, when faced with a list, users should be able to address each transaction individually.

In my case, clearly the Target purchase triggered the red flag. It was a large amount, I rarely shop there, and I’d just flown 2,000 miles from my previous transaction the day before. In reality, the other transactions were pretty meaningless to the fraud detection algorithm. Even if I couldn’t remember one of the previous four routine transactions, Capital One wouldn’t have wanted to shut my account down. They’d already lost a few dollars on the declined Target transaction, there was no reason to compound that loss with costly calls to customer service to vet the other transactions.

Finally, I’m not a fan of the web pages presented after clicking on the "Everything’s OK" or "There’s an issue" button (see second and third screenshots). The bank gets points for thanking me for my help, but they forget to apologize for the inconvenience of declining my purchase at Target. It’s pretty embarrassing to be standing at the checkout with a basket full of goods while everyone thinks you are a deadbeat.

The webpage responses don’t go very far it telling me what to do next. Even if I’d given the all clear, I still have questions. Which of the transactions, if any, were declined? Will the declined transaction go through now that I’ve said it’s OK? And how can I avoid this in the future.

And if I did have issues with one or more of the transactions, the only option is to call the bank, and there isn’t even a number supplied. Aren’t there self-service options at this point that could save everyone some time?

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Suspicious activity email from Capital One (28 Dec 2014)

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Webpage after clicking "Everything’s OK" above

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Webpage after clicking "There’s an issue" above

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Previous Capital One Fraud Alert (16 Dec 2011)

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Capital One Uses Email to Request Cardholder Income Update

I’m always on the lookout for digital process improvements, from the major to the minor. And this one definitely falls in the latter category. But in my 22 years of banking online, I don’t recall ever being prompted to update my income so that my card issuer could reconsider my line size.

But that’s exactly what I received this morning. At first blush, it almost sounded like a crafty fraud attempt. But Capital One wisely inserted my full name, the last four digits on the account, and promised to handle it in just 60 seconds (see first screenshot), so I’m pretty sure it’s legit. They also reassured me that it won’t require a credit bureau inquiry. 

Clicking through the email places the cardholder onto the normal online banking login screen. After logging in, you are sent directly to an account-update page (screenshot 2) to update income and employments status. After completing the two fields, you are thanked and can navigate to other areas or logout (screenshot 3). Total time expended = 87 seconds (Internet times were a little sluggish late afternoon on the West Coast).

Thoughts: This card dates back to 2010, so it’s possible they are on a four-year cycle to update income information; however, I just sent my W2 to Capital One two days ago for a mortgage refinance. So I have to believe this email was triggered by that; if so, it demonstrates solid CRM integration, although it seems curious that the bank wouldn’t just pull my income directly from the mortgage app.

All in all it was a painless experience, and I look forward to seeing whether the bank uses it to alter my credit line.

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Capital One email asking for an income update (2 Sep 2014)

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Online banking page to enter info

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After entering info

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UI: Chase Bank Remodels the All-Important "Account Summary Alert"

image Here at Netbanker/OBR, we love to write about the digital future. But we know it’s even more important to address the digital now. If you don’t leverage current technology to your advantage, the future doesn’t much matter, since someone else will be running your business.

Today’s topic, one that we used to harp on constantly, is alerts (see previous “Alerts” posts).  Alerts are the way you maintain the relationship with customers between logins. But too many banks and credit unions take email alerts for granted, and are still using a template from 2004! Those templates were created prior to webmail, and, more importantly, before mobile viewership skyrocketed.

One bank whose messaging template was too long in the tooth is Chase (it’s looked the same since at least 2010; see note 1). But as part of their continued digital remodeling, the bank changed it last week. It’s not going to be confused with Simple or Mint, but it communicates the important information efficiently. And that’s enough for most brands. 

The Improvements 

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Following are the before-and-after shots on the desktop. As you can see, the old version was too wide for smaller laptops and lower-resolution computers. On my Mac it looked fine, but on my trusty old ThinkPad, it required horizontal scrolling to see the “total withdrawals.”

What changed:

  • All the information is lined up on the left side so it can be easily read on any screen size; this is especially important on mobile which was previously impossible to read (on iPhone) without pinching and zooming.
  • Got rid of the Go Paperless! banner. Talk about banner fatigue. I understand that it’s a great benefit to convert users to paperless, but really, four-plus years with the same banner? MIX IT UP, please!
  • Changed headline to position “Chase” as the first word instead of the last. That helps users scanning subject lines see that it’s from their bank. 
  • Added light blue background at top to give it a better look.
  • Cleaned up the data table for better readability.
  • Made the website URL more visible.
  • Added toll-free contact number.
  • Added more fine print and caveats (the only item that is a step backwards).

 

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Desktop 

Before (viewed through Gmail, 3 May 2014)

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After (viewed through Gmail, 12 May 2014)

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Mobile (screen captures from iPhone 5)

Before                                                          After

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Notes:
1. The UI described here is for a Chase checking account in Washington State (converted from WAMU). This email alert template may be different in other regions or for other account types.
2. For more info on alerts and messaging, see our 2010 Online Banking Report (subscription).

Moven Offers Free Ride, but Only to New Uber Customers

image Despite more holiday hate over surge pricing, Uber is one of the more high-profile up-and-coming digital brands in the world. As the new year dawned (3 Jan 2014), Moven ran an eye-catching promo offering a free Uber ride (up to $30).

I flagged the email because I thought it was a great activation move. Moven appeared to be offering me $30 to get moving and complete my new account authentication (note 1). And more importantly, to get my Moven card in play in an app that offers a future stream of interchange revenues.

But unfortunately, the offer is limited to new Uber customers only (disclosed in small type at the bottom, that’s my red arrow in the  inset). And surprisingly, it appears that you can enter any credit/debit card number into the signup form as it’s not Moven-specific.

Here’s a quick rundown of the pros and cons of the promotion:

________________________________________

Analysis
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1. Offer
Good: Free Uber ride is cool and valuable and a good company to associate with the Moven brand. The $30 offer beats what Uber served me on a Google search by $10 (see second screenshot below).      
Bad: A significant number of those interested in the offer will already be Uber customers and unable to participate (note 2).      
Fix: Allow existing Uber customers to participate (perhaps with a lower dollar cap); if that’s not economically feasible, it’s time to showcase a more prominent “new Uber customers only.”

2. Fulfillment
Good: Encourages users to enter their Moven card number into the Uber app.       
Bad: The form, and offer, can be used with any credit/debit card.      
Fix: Require the ride be charged to the Moven card to qualify for the free credit.  

3. Design
Good: The email design was attractive and easy to read in a desktop browser window.
Bad: Headlines were good, but copy and fine print were not readable on a mobile (iPhone 5) without zooming (see inset above).      
Fix: Design for mobile window

Bottom line: Despite these drawbacks, it’s still a good promo. And its cost to Moven is likely zero (note 3), a very important factor for a startup. So I’d rate it a B+ overall in terms of execution, but an A for value (to Moven), assuming Uber picked up the tab. 

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Email from Moven (3 Jan 2014)
Note: Displayed in iPhone 5

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Google offer under “uber” search (2 PM from Seattle IP address, 14 Jan 2014)

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Image source: Placeit

Notes:
1. I signed up as soon as I got a Moven invite, but I got caught in the authentication loop, still needing to find those trial deposit-amounts and feed that to Moven.  
2. Also the fine print says “new users only.” Originally, I took this to mean “new Moven users” since the message came from Moven, and I was new to Moven and not new to Uber.  
3. It’s highly likely there was no cost to Moven, and it’s possible the startup is earning a commission for each new Uber customer.

Email Design: Discover Card’s “Statement Available” Message

image There are a number of financial startups and trail-blazing FIs bringing modern user interfaces to banking. We see dozens of great examples at every Finovate (note 1). And we expect a slew of remodels in the new year as responsive design and other techniques take hold.

But I continue to call out Discover’s design work (previous posts). Partly because I have an account there and see it often and partly because it’s instructive to see how a large full-service bank handles design tradeoffs.

Yesterday’s email from DIscover, reminding me that my monthly statement was ready, shows how the card giant marries good design with useful information.

Most statement alerts are simple one liners asking the user to do all the work: login, find the right tab, click on the correct button, and so on. Discover, on the other hand, positions key summary information right within the body of the email (see screenshot below):

  • Statement end date
  • Statement balance
  • Credit available
  • Minimum payment due
  • Due date

The company includes a button to view the statement at the top, but somewhat buries the payment link near the bottom. 

Analysis: This is one of the better (maybe best) statement-available message I get from the major brands (note 2). But it could still be improved: 

  • Include a Pay Now button.
  • Remind me that I’m on autopay and when to expect the payment in full to be deducted from my bank account.
  • Reword and fix the bottom link. Currently it says “Late and Minimum Payment Warning.” That sounds like there must be a problem with my account. But there isn’t, so I assume that is supposed to link to the alerts maintenance area. However, that link wasn’t working, so I just was dumped onto the main secure account page. It was very confusing.
  • Add a link to customer service, both self-serve and human powered.
  • Add the amount of rewards earned this period. It’s always nice to be reminded of free money received. 

image

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Notes:
1. For example, a recent crowd favorites was from Poland’s mBank which demoed alongside Accenture at FinovateFall in September (demo video).
2. We dug deep into this area a few years ago in our reports (subscription):
Email Banking: Revitalizing the Channel (August 2010)
Alerts & Streaming (July 2010)
Paperless Billing & Banking (Nov. 2010)

The Best Card/Banking Activation Email Ever? Simple Innovation #7*

image As a long-time student of the black art of marketing, I knew that I’d be in for some tricks and treats from Simple. And my first marketing message from the startup did not disappoint.

The eye-catching subject line practically guarantees a view:

Have you been cheating on us?

And the all-important opening line draws you in further:

So you’ve deposited money into Simple, and you’ve swiped a few times, maybe paid a bill. Not to get all clingy, but what’s up?

The email (below) goes on to make the case for switching to Simple including a testimonial centering on the startup’s spending map. Brilliant.

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Simple activation email (25 Oct 2012)
Note: The fine print at the bottom of the message is limited to just
“Unsubscribe from Simple outreach emails.” 

Simple card/banking activation email

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Notes:
1. See previous six Simple innovations here
2. 1953 Curtis ad for sale on eBay